Cynthia Lummis

U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis announced Tuesday that she will not be entering the Republican primary for governor next year. Gov. Matt Mead is barred by term limits from running again.

File, Wyoming Tribune Eagle

The Wyoming governor’s race has been thrown wide open after former U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis announced that she will not enter next year’s Republican primary.

With strong name recognition across the state and financial resources, Lummis was the heavy favorite to win both the primary and general election if she ran.

“I thought when I returned home that I would run for governor,” Lummis acknowledged in an interview with the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on Tuesday. But the Wyoming native, who decided not to run for reelection to Congress last year, said that she was enjoying time off from public office.

Floodgates open

Republican strategist Bill Novotny said that Lummis’ announcement upends the field and will likely prompt many prospective candidates to enter the race in the coming weeks and months.

“This is going to open the floodgates,” Novotny said. “Most of the serious candidates I’ve spoken to were waiting for her to officially declare her plans.”

Wyoming Treasurer Mark Gordon and Secretary of State Ed Murray have both said they are considering entering the race but have not yet made decisions. As statewide officials they have experience with large-scale campaigns.

Gov. Matt Mead, who was elected in 2010, is barred from running again in 2018 due to term limits.

Murray said that he had learned in July that Lummis was unlikely to enter the race and had recently spoken to her personally. Murray said her decision not to run makes it more likely that he will.

Murray called Lummis a “political powerhouse” in an interview Wednesday and said that her presence in the race would have made it difficult to promote his own policies.

“Ideas that I believe would be transformational could have been overlooked simply because a candidate like Cynthia Lummis would have attention,” he said, hastening to add that she deserved that recognition.

Gordon was not available for an interview Wednesday.

Many other names have been floated as prospective candidates, but Gordon and Murray remain the most formidable to have expressed interested. Sheridan businessman and political novice Bill Dahlin is the only Republican candidate to have officially entered the race so far.

Bill Cubin, who has served as Lummis’ campaign treasurer, said that her absence from the race is likely to make the primary more regional.

“It will come down to who can perform the best in the most populated counties,” he said.

Former Cheyenne state legislator Mary Throne appears to have the Democratic party’s backing in the governor’s race, though Republicans are the heavy favorites to win statewide office in Wyoming.

“Mary is looking forward to a robust and healthy debate about the future of Wyoming over the next 14 months,” Throne campaign official Bri Jones wrote in an email responding to a question about Lummis’ decision not to run.

History of public service

Lummis was first elected to public office in 1979 as a state representative. She subsequently served as a state senator and finally state treasurer from 1999 until 2007, when she was elected to Congress. Multiple attempts to reach Lummis this week were unsuccessful.

Lummis told the Tribune Eagle that she will likely run for public office in the future, despite not entering the 2018 governor’s race.

Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi will be up for reelection in 2020 if he chooses to run again.

Lummis clashed several times with GOP leadership in the U.S. House and eventually joined the House Freedom Caucus, placing her among the more right-wing Republicans in Congress. But with decades of public service under her belt, she remains in the mainstream of Wyoming politics.

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Star-Tribune reporter Arno Rosenfeld covers local government, with a focus on Casper and Natrona County.

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